A North Carolina pastor and a Texas mission strategist have been named to new staff positions with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
Chris Aho, pastor at Oxford Baptist Church in Oxford, N.C., has been named director of CBF’s Thriving Congregations project funded by a $1 million grant from the Lilly Endowment. Javier Perez, regional director of strategic initiatives and program design for Latin America and the Caribbean with Buckner Children and Family Services, has been named director of global missions programs and impact.
Both are new positions created amid a year of staff realignment and reduction at CBF sparked by the Toward Bold Faithfulness strategic plan and budget realities, although the Thriving Congregations position is funded by the grant, not the CBF budget. In October 2020, CBF eliminated 10 staff positions as part of a $1.6 million spending reduction.
That reduction also anticipated restructuring to meet specific needs identified through Toward Bold Faithfulness, including diversity, racial justice and missions priorities.
New missions role
The need for Perez’s new role was emphasized by Steven Porter, CBF’s coordinator for Global Missions.
“The past year has underscored that change is constant and resources are precious,” Porter said, explaining that this position “will help CBF be the best possible steward of our investments in global missions in a rapidly changing world.”
Perez will help the Global Missions staff increase capacity and “tell the story of God’s work through global missions in new ways,” he added.
Perez began work at CBF last month. He earned a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and a master of divinity degree from International Baptist Theological Seminary in Colombia. In Colombia, he studied liberation theology and gained experience to understand the causes of poverty and injustice.
Before coming to the CBF staff, he served a decade in various roles at Buckner, one of the largest Baptist-affiliated child and family services nonprofits in the nation with a wide global footprint.
Prior to that, he led missions and community ministries at Woodland Baptist Church, a CBF congregation in San Antonio, Texas.
Perez said he sees the new work with CBF as an ideal fit.
“I have long admired CBF’s focus on global poverty, global migration and the global church,” he said. “I am convinced that poverty and forced migration — these sub-human conditions in which the majority of humanity lives today — are more than marginal issues. Poverty and migration pose major challenges to every Christian conscience and therefore to the global church. CBF is uniquely positioned to respond to such challenges, and I am eagerly looking forward to working with our dedicated field personnel as they live out our commitments around the world and also with the global church as she embodies her prophetic voice.”
“Poverty and migration pose major challenges to every Christian conscience and therefore to the global church.”
Porter praised Perez as bringing the right experience and skill set to this work: “His background in field service at the intersection of global poverty and global migration, graduate training in theology and public administration, leadership experience at Buckner International, deep ties to the Fellowship, and his own Latin American experience, position Javier to make an immediate impact in global missions.”
When announcing the Lilly Endowment grant last fall, CBF Executive Coordinator Paul Baxley said 51 congregations will be selected for one-year congregational learning experiences that will be organized in communities with three or four other congregations. The grant covers a three-year cycle.
CBF’s recent nationwide research project identified five qualities of thriving congregations: holy tenacity, compelling clarity, faithful agility, rooted relationship and dynamic collaboration.
Participating congregations will “design new ministries that fully utilize their gifts to meet an urgent need through a holy experiment,” CBF said in a news release at the time. “Throughout these journeys, congregations will engage with one another in leadership team retreats while also inviting their entire congregation into deeper encounters with Scripture, theology and Christian practices.”
Aho will design and lead this effort and will share the project’s findings with other CBF churches to help them thrive.
A pastor for 21 years, he earned the master of divinity degree from Duke Divinity School and bachelor of arts degree in religion from Baylor University. Prior to serving the Oxford congregation, he was pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Mobile, Ala.; associate pastor of First Baptist Church of Mount Airy, N.C.; and minister to youth at Zebulon Baptist Church in Zebulon, N.C.
“For the last 21 years, I have had the privilege of serving four CBF churches, and each one has affirmed that thriving local congregations are essential in fulfilling Jesus’ commission from Acts 1:8 to be witnesses to the ends of the earth,” Aho said. “As I begin a new chapter with our Fellowship, I hope my passion for local congregations, my interest in designing for innovation, and my love for our CBF family positions me well to help us learn together how we might design a way toward thriving as congregations in an uncertain world.”